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New minority owner already helping Nets with Asian market

Penny Lee via Twitter

Joe Tsai is expected to put on a uniform Saturday night in Shenzhen, China, and participate in Jeremy Lin’s “Hoop for Hope” charity basketball game. The Nets minority owner will be joined by Lin as well as Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Spencer Dinwiddie and Asian celebrities. The game was scheduled before Lin was traded to Atlanta.

He was showing off some shooting skills in warm-ups early Saturday...

The event will give Tsai, who holds Taiwanese and Canadian citizenship ... and two degrees from Yale, an opportunity to get closer to RHJ and Dinwiddie and also show the Nets brand in China. The executive vice chairman and co-founder of Alibaba, the big Asian e-commerce company, Tsai has already helped the Nets market themselves in Greater China, which includes Taiwan and Hong Kong.

He might not replace Lin in the hearts of Chinese and Taiwanese fans, but his business acumen and marketing experience is bound to help sell the team and the NBA in a country where 300 million people play the game.

As Brian Lewis reports Saturday, Nets CEO Brett Yormark believes Tsai who takes over as principal owner in 2021-22, has already been a big help.

“Just given Joe’s influence and his reputation and credibility, it opens up a lot of doors,” said Yormark, in talking about a trip he made to China just after Tsai agreed to pay $1.1 billion for his 49 percent stake. “We met with 21 different CEOs while we were there, from all different types of companies, and we have a really great opportunity to expand our brand, our voice, our message.”

Similarly, Adam Silver, NBA commissioner, told Lewis that Tsai has been helpful in league matters.

“Joe Tsai has already contributed significantly since becoming an NBA team governor,” Silver told the Post, “offering strategic advice and insight to assist the league’s operations in China.”

China already is the second biggest market for the NBA and some months tops North America in revenue. The big financial incentive for Tsai (and the league) is not current revenue from merchandise sales —which NBA teams share in equally when sales take place outside a team’s market— but the bigger bonanzas down the road. Ultimately, sports marketing experts note, the NBA will sell TV and digital rights in Asia, just as they do now in North America.

Tsai’s role in governing the Nets now is limited. League rules are quite clear: The principal owner — Mikhail Prokhorov in the Nets’ case — has final say. But as Tsai noted the morning Lin was traded, he’s been kept informed of big issues. Tsai, who tweets rarely, went out of his way to point that up when Sean Marks traded Lin, who he had described as “my favorite player.”

Saturday night will be for fun and charity. however, not so much business. Lin, RHJ and Dinwiddie will be the big draw along with Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou (who congratulated Tsai when he brought the Nets stake and reportedly got 20 million views on Weibo, the Chinese social media site.)

Of course, it won’t hurt business either.